Q1: What is the most valuable career advice you can give to people just starting out?
David Ogilvy, the author and advertising impresario, said: “If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.”
You cannot excel unless you work with people who value excellence. You cannot succeed unless you overcome your fear of success. You cannot do your best unless you recognize the greatness you possess.
Q2: What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?
It is a challenge to get people’s attention: a challenge made more difficult by changes in the nature of technology and a concomitant shift in human nature; a challenge to how we socialize and communicate, too, as we do both within the virtual reality of social media; a challenge, finally, to how we receive and review information.
Unless the headline is compelling or the picture is captivating, no amount of words can recapture what was not yours in the first place—the reader’s attention.
Q3: How do you ensure your organization and its activities are aligned with your “core values”?
We have one core value: to deliver results for our clients. Put another way, there is no value without virtue. You cannot add value if you have no personal values, whose benefits derive from the virtues of industry, fidelity, and integrity. Clients confide in me—they are my confidants—so I have a duty to earn and maintain their trust.
Q4: Where do the great ideas come from in your organization? Do you encourage junior members to be creative and share business ideas with senior management? Junior members?
No one has a monopoly on good ideas. The person at the supermarket, the customer or the cashier, the man next to you at the counter or the woman with a bag of groceries—each individual has at least one good or possibly great idea. Change the venue, and mingle among your coworkers. You will find, I believe, the same thing. If engage someone in question, if you ask for that person’s opinion about a particular subject—if you listen to what he has to say or what she wants to say—you may very well learn how to solve a problem, monetize and market a solution, or improve the culture of your workplace.
Q5: Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?
The women who inspire me are the ones I work with, as my industry is overwhelmingly male. These women inspire me, not because of their sex, but because of their refusal to subordinate their status to men. They are a testament to their respective talents and their collective intelligence, making them wiser than most people I know and more resilient than the majority of men—and women—I have met.
The men who inspire me are Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson. Each is a profile in leadership, as well as a leader who is a philanthropist. Each is a revolutionary, in terms of business, and an entrepreneur, regardless of the size—no matter the global significance—of his business.
Q6: Tell me about a time you struggled with work-life balance. How did you solve the problem?
I was a single mother, with two young children, when I started my business. I was also attending college, studying and working my way through school en route to earning a Master’s Degree, while trying to raise my son and daughter; to be an example to them—to show them—that diligence yields dividends of both moral and monetary worth. I wanted them to see the rewards of hard work, so they would know that no challenge is too great, no problem is too big, and too hurdle is too high—if you have the will to succeed.
Q7: Have you made unpopular decisions like firing employees and reducing compensation levels? What do you do to keep employee motivation enact after such actions?
I do not punish people. I try to find the best person for the right job, so he knows he is part of a team—our team—where we rise or fall together, where a cut in one’s salary does not mean a raise in mine, where success accrues to all and all have an interest in our prosperity. I motivate, then, by maintaining my commitment to excellence. Words alone do not suffice, not when my actions speak more powerfully than the most motivational speech I can deliver.
Q8 As leaders do you create work environments that are more competitive or collaborative in nature?
Is there a difference? In my experience competition, good competition, spurs-on collaboration. As in so much of life…it’s not the results you get that count- it’s what you do with them. The collaborator will get great results….the competitor will make the most of them.
Q9 How do you get buy in from senior management and board on your business ideas?
Very easily, since they are part of the process that comes up with the ideas in the first place. Plus, if in doubt, they trust me- from having experience of my judgement in the past. Plus….I pay their wages!! (just joking on that one!)
Q10 How to increase employee productivity? Do you invest in their wellbeing?
The best investment in employee well-being is paying them fairly. I don’t get into gym memberships or too many social gatherings. I pay my guys well- because they deserve it. They can make their own lifestyle choices, they don’t need me to guide them or interfere…They get enough of that in the office!